The Minister of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Graham Stuart MP hosted a reception in the Locarno Suite on Wednesday 13th July to mark Srebrenica Memorial Day.
The reception was attended by MPs, Peers and Ambassadors representing countries across the world to commemorate the Srebrenica Genocide. His Excellency Šefik Džaferović, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke at the reception alongside Bosnian Genocide survivor and Director of the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, Dr Emir Suljagić. Other distinguished speakers from across the political spectrum included the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, and Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as performances from Bosnian opera singers Dženana and Dženana.
Displayed at the reception was the painting Terminus (journey’s end) by Robert McNeil, a former forensic specialist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Affiliate Artist for UNESCO, author of Grave Faces and Remembering Srebrenica UK Ambassador.
The Srebrenica Genocide is the worst atrocity on European soil since the second world war in which over 8000 mainly Muslim men and boys were systematically murdered just in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia simply because of their Muslim identity, close to 100,000 people were killed across the whole country, over 2.2 million people were displaced and, between 20,000-50,000 women were raped as part of the systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide enacted by Serb forces.
The UK is the largest commemorator in the world outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina of Srebrenica memorial activities which are organised through our eight English regional boards and three country boards in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and 1,500 Community Champions to honour the victims and survivors of the genocide and teach people about the dangers of hatred and the importance of building more cohesive communities for all.
Every year, Remembering Srebrenica selects a theme that reflects an aspect of the genocide that needs to be commemorated, but also speaks to communities here in the UK. The theme for 2022 is ‘Combatting Denial: Challenging Hatred’.
The killings at Srebrenica have been classified as genocide by both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia. Despite this fact, denial of the Srebrenica genocide and other crimes against humanity committed across Bosnia remains prevalent at the highest levels, including from the Mayor of Srebrenica and current political leadership of Republika Srpska. These attitudes are also supported by Russia which, in 2015, vetoed a UN resolution to condemn the killings at Srebrenica as a genocide.
In the UK, communities are only too aware of the damaging impact that denial can have for individuals and community cohesion. Divisive propaganda and misinformation are thriving, and clear and established facts are denied and manipulated, frequently resulting in minority communities being scapegoated and vilified to create mistrust and promote hatred that threatens community cohesion. Home Office figures have revealed that the number of recorded hate crimes have doubled in the space of five years. Since last year, numbers of recorded hate crimes have increased by 9% to a record 124,091, with nearly three quarters of those incidents being racially motivated.
We therefore hope that this year’s theme and commemorations will help empower individuals and communities to better understand and confront the denial which emboldens perpetrators and gaslights their victims, to help create safer, stronger, and more cohesive communities.